TTC Board Meeting April 20, 2017 (Updated)

The TTC Board will meet on April 20, 2017. Items of interest on the agenda include:

  • The monthly CEO’s Report
  • Repair of SRT Vehicles
  • Disposition of Bay Street Bus Terminal

This article has been updated with a commentary on subway and surface route performance statistics presented at the Board meeting. (Scroll down to the end of the CEO’s Report.)

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Scarborough Subway Cost Rises Again (II)

After publication of a series reports going to Toronto’s Executive Committee on March 7, there have been many competing claims about just how much the Scarborough Subway is going to cost. Subway advocates prefer the lower number of $3.35 billion cited as the base cost of the subway itself plus an improved bus terminal, while others point out that many elements have been omitted from this number.

I reviewed many of the reports in a previous article, but this post looks beyond the subway itself to other projects that are required for the subway to open. Some of these are unfunded, or are now planned for a date beyond the Scarborough line’s opening, or are simply missing from TTC and City plans.

Previous Cost Estimates for the “Express Subway”

The Scarborough Subway project, as described in all previous reports included the following three items:

  • Construction of the subway from Kennedy Station to STC at a cost of $2.3 billion in 2010 dollars, or $3.315 billion in year-of-expenditure (YOE) allowing for future inflation.
  • Life extension work to keep the SRT operational until the subway opens at a cost of $132 million (YOE).
  • Demolition and removal of the existing SRT structure following the subway opening at a cost of $123 million (YOE).

These values, totalling $3.56 billion, appeared in:

The October 3, 2013 report to Council:

201310_costextimate

A presentation to a Value Engineering workshop by the TTC in September 2016:

201609_ttcprojectcostestimates_vesession

The TTC’s 2017-26 Capital Budget recently approved by Council (click to enlarge):

2017_capbudget

The $3.305 billion cost for the subway itself is intriguing because it has not changed between the 2016-25 and 2017-26 versions of the budget. The detailed views are below. (These are taken from the detailed TTC budget books that are not available online.)

2016 (click to enlarge):

sse_006_2016

2017 (click to enlarge):

sse_006_2017

The major change between the two versions to line item totals is that an allowance for property has been offset by an increase in “fixed facilities”. However, expenditures timings change, and there is no adjustment for inflation. I have asked the TTC for comment on this and related matters.

Item                          2016-2025        2017-2026
                                ($000)           ($000)
Fixed Facilities              $2,458,000       $2,623,000
TTC Installation                                      250
Property                         165,000
Consultants                      398,123          397,297
TTC Engineering                  101,877          102,453
Vehicles                         182,000          182,000
Total                         $3,305,000       $3,305,000

In the 2017 Capital Budget the section for the SRT life extension shows values only to 2023 and the demolition of the SRT structure is in 2025. These timings do not  make sense except in the context of a 2023 opening as described below. It is clear that these two items have not been updated to reflect the later opening date and the added cost this brings for ongoing support of the old system, and inflation in the cost of demolishing and removing it.

From the description of the Life Extension project:

lifeextensionprojectdescription

Additional Costs Not Included in the Current Projected Total

The $3.35 billion cost now claimed for the SSE project does not include several items cited in the City’s reports:

  • Procurement costs through Infrastructure Ontario: $15 million
  • Financing costs of a 3P project, net to TTC: $40 million
  • Public realm improvements (optional): $11 million
  • Platform edge doors (optional): $14 million
  • Increase in “management reserve” for scope changes to the level recommended by consultants: $100 million
  • SRT Life Extension: $132 million
  • SRT Decommissioning and Demolition: $123 million

As noted above, some costs have been estimated based on a 2023 opening for the subway, but without allowances for inflation to a later date.

Planning for Fleet, Signals and Carhouse Space

There are inconsistencies in the timing of various projects related to the Bloor-Danforth Subway that existed in the 2016-25 budget, and still pose major problems for 2017-26. These are all linked to the opening of the SSE which, like the TYSSE extension to Vaughan, will be built with Automatic Train Control (ATC).

  • Resignalling of Line 2 BD with ATC
  • Replacement of the existing T1 subway fleet with new trains capable of ATC operation
  • Construction of a new yard to house the replacement fleet

The TTC plans to resignal Line 2 following completion of Line 1 YUS in 2019. Here is the budget summary for these projects (click to enlarge):

2017_atcsignals

The T1 subway fleet is due for replacement in the mid 2020s, but current plans show this happening substantially after the SSE opens with delivery of prototypes in 2024 and the remainder of the fleet from 2026-2030. This means that a large part of the BD fleet would not be able to operate on ATC, and therefore could not run beyond Kennedy Station.

2017_t1replacement

There is also a provision in the SSE budget (above) for additional trains with funding in 2022-23 of $182 million. This corresponds to the original scheme to open the line in 2023, but not to the current fleet plan. In the table below, six trains are shown as a service addition for the SSE in 2023, but these come from available spares within the T1 pool (even though they cannot run in ATC territory). This would provide an AM peak service with alternate trains turning back from Kennedy Station, and overall BD service at the same level as today (2’20” west of Kennedy, 4’40” to STC). The replacement fleet begins to arrive in 2026 through 2030 including the seven trains funded from the SSE project budget. Full service to STC comes in 2027, but this and an allowance for ridership growth are clearly based on a 2023 SSE opening date.

The fleet plan is out of sync with the opening date for the SSE and its signal system.

2017_line2_subwayfleetplan

The T1 replacement project is on the “City Requested Budget Reductions” list, and does not have any funding within the current ten-year Capital Program. This represents a pressure within the City’s overall capital budget and its “below the line” iceberg of capital projects it cannot afford.

Finally, a new fleet cannot be provisioned without a new yard. This is required both to provide overlapping capacity for new and old trains (unlike Line 1 where Wilson Yard had room for expansion to handle the H to TR fleet changeover). There are also design problems with Greenwood in that the shops were not planned for 6-car unit trains, and major renovation would be required to do this, all within an active shop for the BD line.

The TTC recently authorized the purchase of land near Kipling Station for a new subway yard. However, the actual construction of a yard does not appear in the Capital Budget and there is no provision for this in the TTC’s financial plans. Quite obviously this facility is required before the new trains begin to arrive. If the T1 replacement project moves forward so that the new trains can all be here before the SSE opens in 2026, then the new carhouse must exist by the early 2020s. Considering how long it takes the TTC to get approval for a major new facility, let alone build it, this is a critical project that has not even been discussed in the context of SSE planning.

None of this is news, and the TTC is well aware of the problem. I wrote about this as part of my 2016 budget coverage, and the TTC replied with details of what is really needed. Management plans to bring an overall plan for the renovation of Line 2 to the Board at its March meeting, but this will inevitably produce ripples in the City’s budget. That can be fixed, in part, if some of Toronto’s PTIF money (the federal infrastructure program) goes to accelerating these projects, but this has to be fitted in among the many hopes Toronto has for that funding.

These are not, strictly speaking, “Scarborough Subway costs”, but they are projects triggered by the decision to extend Line 2 BD. Although federal money could be available, the City will have to pony up its share, and this will fall right at a period when it is tight for capital.

Toronto Council deserves to see the whole picture of funding and financing requirements for the SSE and related projects. Too much is hidden either by its unfunded status, or by simple omission from the overall plans. This inevitably creates a crisis when – Surprise! – a project is forced “above the line” because it cannot be avoided. This brings new spending that crowds other works, many having nothing to do with transit, off of the table. This is no way to handle City budgeting.

TTC Vehicle Reliability

Delays in the arrival of the new Bombardier Flexity streetcars, together with last summer’s sauna conditions on the Bloor-Danforth subway, make for ongoing concern about the condition of the TTC’s fleet. Statistics in the January 2017 CEO’s Report triggered media reports and a discussion at the recent TTC Board Meeting.

The numbers, although presented in what is supposed to be an “industry standard” format, lead to much confusion for a variety of reasons:

  • The basic standard is that any fault causing a delay of five minutes or greater counts, while all others do not.
    • A fault that might delay a bus or streetcar (doors not working) may not count against the subway because there is so much redundancy.
    • There is no distinction between a fault that represents a severe failure of a component or a minor annoyance that simply caused a long enough delay to be counted. Similarly, the cost and effort needed to repair faults does not contribute to the metric.
  • Faults are reported “per vehicle kilometre”, but many subsystems fail more on the basis of hours in operation (how long has an air conditioner been running), or number of cycles (how many times did doors open and close).
    • For a specific fleet and type of operation, hours and kilometres are interchangeable because the fleet operates at a consistent average speed within its frame of reference.
    • Fleets (or even subsets of fleets) operating under different conditions (average speed, frequency of stops, loads and grades) will not have the same ratio of hourly-based to distance-based faults. Direct comparison of distance-based statistics between these conditions is meaningless. For example, a well known problem in comparing streetcars with buses is that bus routes tend to operate in suburban conditions at relatively high average speeds. When they shift to more congested, densely used routes, their operating characteristics change. (It is self-evident that fuel consumption is affected by route conditions, and operator wages are paid per hour, not per kilometre. Slower buses run fewer kilometres. Time-based wear and tear, and associated reliability stats will rise when expressed on the basis of distance.)
  • Some fleets are a uniform age, while others are diverse.
    • Toronto’s rail fleets have major vehicle groups each of which was sourced as a single large order: The T1 (BD) and TR (YUS) subway car fleets; the CLRV, ALRV and Flexity streetcar fleets; and the SRT.
    • The bus fleet has a wider range of ages and technologies, and so its statistics are the combined effect of vehicles over a range of ages and conditions.
    • For a list of the TTC fleet by type, see the last page of any Scheduled Service Summary such as the one for January 2017. These are available on the TTC’s Planning webpage.

In the figures reported by the CEO, these issues are not explored in detail, but are at best mentioned in a few footnotes. Unsurprisingly, the media and politicians (even transit pundits) can jump to the wrong conclusion about what the stats actually mean.

To ensure that even without taking these factors into account, we are dealing with similar methodologies for each fleet, I asked the TTC whether the same principles apply across the system.

SM: Is it correct that there is a different set of criteria for a “defect” charged to the streetcar fleets and to the subway fleet? Are the criteria used for buses yet another way of measuring defect rates, or are they the same as for streetcars?

TTC: Same principle applies.  In principle, the calculation of MKBD is the same for each mode.   Overall vehicle reliability is dependent upon component and systems reliability. 

MKBD is calculated from the number of chargeable Road Calls and Change Offs (RCCO) during service.  The definition of a chargeable RCCO is any disruption to revenue service caused by a preventable equipment failure.  This definition is applied to all modes of operation.  It should, however, be noted that there are slight differences to the criteria of RCCO for each mode.   For example, a failure to a set of doors on a subway train may not cause a disruption or a delay to service.  Line mechanics may respond to the failure and barricade the inoperable doors. This may happen with no impact to customer or to service. This is due to the fact that subways have multiple sets of doors that customers can enter or egress from. Transit Control, therefore,  may decide not to remove a train from service if one set of doors is inoperable.  For a 40’ bus, however, the option to continue in service with a set of inoperable doors is not an option. Passenger flow on and off the bus will be significantly impacted.  Therefore, in this case … the same equipment failure may be handled differently on buses, streetcars and subways.   Differences in types of equipment, life cycles of these equipment and operating environments will also contribute to the differences in calculating RCCO and MKBD between modes. [Email of January 16, 2017]

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TTC Board Meeting: November 30, 2016

The TTC Board will meet on November 30, 2016 at 1 pm in the Council Chamber at City Hall. This is not a budget meeting, but the agenda contains a number of items of interest.

  • CEO’s Report for November 2016
  • Purchase of Air Conditioning Parts for T1 Subway Cars
  • Purchase of land to expand bus storage capacity
  • Reports related to the Hillcrest Complex including a review of property usage, approval of new equipment for Duncan Shops, and approval of a new Streetcar Way Building.
  • Expansion of Davisville Carhouse
  • St. Patrick Station Easier Access Elevators

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Air Conditioning as an Optional Extra

Every spring for some years, the TTC has been caught flat footed with air conditioning units in trains and buses that do not work when the hot weather arrives. This year is easily the worst in my memory. Instead of the occasional “hot car”, they are so prevalent that the official advice is to avoid the middle pair in a train on the BD line (Line 2) because that’s where they stick the ones with no AC.

This started out as a “we’ll fix them as soon as we find them” earlier in the season to an admission today that the fleet won’t be back in working order until the end of the summer. Here is the TTC’s Brad Ross on Twitter:

20160707_BradRossACTweet

The problem even has its own web page where the TTC states that 20-25% of cars on BD do not have working AC.

The situation is made even more ridiculous by the huge difference between the size of the subway fleet and the number of trains the TTC actually needs to operate service.

The Bloor-Danforth and Sheppard lines both use T-1 trains, although Sheppard is being converted to 4-car Toronto Rocket (TR) sets and one is already in operation there.

  • Peak trains on BD = 42, or a requirement for 252 cars (summer schedule).
  • Peak trains on Sheppard = 3, or a requirement for 12 cars.
  • Spares at 20% of 264 = 54 cars.
  • Total requirement = 318 cars.
  • Total fleet = 370 cars.

Meanwhile, on the YUS line, the TTC has more trains than it needs because most equipment intended for the Spadina extension and for more frequent service with automatic train control has already been delivered.

  • Peak trains on YUS = 51 (summer and winter schedules are the same)
  • Spares at 20% of 51 = 10
  • Total requirement = 61 trains
  • Total fleet = 71 (June 19, 2016 Scheduled Service Summary, last page)

This means that the TTC has roughly 50 surplus T1s that are available as an overhaul pool, plus 10 TR trainsets that could be redeployed to the BD line where their working AC units would be most welcome. (And, yes, before someone kvetches, I know that the BD operators would have to be trained to drive the TRs, but many probably know already, and not every crew needs this.)

What we are seeing is a TTC that has been caught out acknowledging the severity of its problem, claiming, basically, that it is impossible to overhaul AC units in advance because they only fail when it gets hot.

20160707_BradRossACTweet_2

The TTC makes a big point of publicizing its Customer Satisfaction stats and trumpeting how strong they are (although we only have numbers to 2016Q1). Hand-wringing over lost ridership is their new passtime, and yet some issues, including failing AC units, are not even mentioned in the staff report on this subject.

It is simply not credible that the TTC is unable, with some juggling of its fleet, to field enough trains where all six cars have AC on the BD line while they get the rest back in proper shape.

All that is needed is the will to organize service around rider comfort.

Why Are Subway Cars on Bloor-Danforth So Dirty?

As a regular traveller on the Bloor-Danforth subway (Line 2), I cannot help noticing how often a car will appear with a very grimy exterior. Although inside the cars look just fine, the exterior can leave much to be desired. The comparison is quite striking with the gleaming trains on Yonge-University-Spadina (Line 1).

It turns out that this problem is caused by a combination of factors including the fact that the BD trains (the T1 sets) are riveted aluminum, while the YUS trains (the newer TR sets) are welded stainless steel.

I asked the TTC about this issue, especially considering how important system cleanliness is in their attempt to present a good face to customers, and they replied:

You’re correct that some of the T1 cars are not as clean as we like.

There are a number of factors in play here.

Trains are not washed regularly through the winter when the ground temperature drops below a certain point. Every winter, it follows that the trains become less clean. We do wash trains mechanically but it is less effective.

Each summer we employ summer students to hand wash the trains using detergent and pressure washers. They can do a train or so a day. They look pretty good, but with the condition of the body and its design –  it takes time.

Chemicals used also make the aluminium more porous and so we have to be careful how much we use, or we potentially make the issue worse over time as the body will attract even more dirt.

The work is made more difficult due to the number of rivets used on the sides of the train. You can see more staining around the doors in general where the normal train wash (think of a car wash for trains) just doesn’t get into these nooks and crannies. On the TR we designed this dirt trap out by the smooth car body.

The students have started work and you’ll see a gradual improvement in the fleet. That said, progress will be slower this year as we are using them to clean also air filters on the trains’ heating system which whilst invisible to customers needs doing across the fleet and is a higher priority.

We will be targeting the worst units first, and working through the fleet on a priority basis.

[Email from Mike Palmer, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, TTC, April 19, 2016]

The T1s will be with us for many years as they are only about 15 years old. TTC has had aluminum bodied cars for decades, and I hope that they can maintain some semblance of cleanliness with this fleet.

TTC Board Meeting March 23, 2016

The TTC Board will meet on March 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm in Committee Room 1 at City Hall. The agenda includes many items of interest:

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TTC Fleet Plans 2016

This is the first article in a series reviewing the details of the TTC’s 2016-2025 Capital Plan. The topic here is the plan for the TTC’s three “conventional service” fleets: subway cars, streetcars and buses.

The Capital Plan provides for two types of spending: vehicle acquisition and major overhauls. No transit vehicle lasts until its design life without overhauls, and these are a substantial portion of the annual budget

The fleet plans for each mode are summarized in the charts linked from each section of the article. The information in them has been adapted from the TTC’s Capital Plan “Blue Books” which contain details on every project. In some cases, the numbers have been reformatted for clarity, and information has been consolidated from multiple charts.

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TTC Budget Meeting: November 9, 2015 (Updated)

Updated November 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm:

The Budget Committee meeting was not the best-organized or well-informed of TTC meetings thanks to a combination of factors. It was held in the boardroom at TTC headquarters which is no longer configured suitably for such events and cannot handle a large presence by the media who were out in force anticipating a story about 2016 fares. Almost all of the material was presented by one person who, unfortunately, trusted to memory rather too often and got the odd fact wrong as the meeting wore on. Moreover, there simply was too much material to absorb in the manner it was presented.

Committee members, for their part, tended to view the situation through their personal lenses of which hobbyhorse needed attention. This did not necessarily make for a broad view of TTC issues, and many erroneous assumptions, often uncorrected, crept into the debate.

We will go through this and much more all over again at the November 23, 2015 meeting of the full Board when we can also expect a very long parade of deputations on the subject of fares.

The entire exercise of having a Budget Committee has been useful, up to a point, in that some Commissioners have been exposed to the gory details, but they remain confused, and we have yet to see an actual philosophical discussion of just what the TTC should be as a basis for the budgets for 2016 and beyond.

The following motions were approved by the Committee:

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TTC Subway and Streetcar Plan Updates

At its meeting on June 22, 2015, the TTC Board will consider two reports affecting the future subway and streetcar fleets in Toronto.

In the case of the subway fleet, plans have been updated to provide for implementation of four-car Toronto Rocket (TR) train operation on the 4 Sheppard subway line.

For the streetcar fleet, there is an update, albeit with some doubts on the TTC’s part, regarding delivery of the new Flexity fleet by Bombardier.

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